Joe Thomas is the Badgers' starting left tackle. He may be listed on Wisconsin's official depth chart in an either/or position with incumbent Morgan Davis and the Badgers' coaches may insist that this is still an open battle, but Joe Thomas is the starter. Thomas took every snap with the first unit at left tackle Wednesday, the Badgers' first day of practices at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Center in Madison.
Joining Wood on the second-team offensive line were mainstays left guard Matt Lawrence and center Jason Palermo, along with redshirt freshmen right guard Marcus Coleman. Lorenz and Davis also split reps at right tackle, along with redshirt freshman Andrew Weininger.
True freshman Kraig Urbik made his Badger debut at right guard, and was joined on the third-team offensive line by center Luke Knauf, left tackle Danny Kaye, left guard Randy Gyllin and right tackle Mike Van Someren.
Wisconsin practiced in shorts and helmets Wednesday in unseasonably chilly weather. Assorted notes from the opening practice:
- Marcus Randle El looked fluid as a wide receiver. His hands were not always true, but he did showed flashes of his much-hyped athleticism and made a nice catch on a deep post pattern.
- Bryan Savage looks the part, at least in an initial glimpse. His arm strength rivals Tyler Donovan's.
- Joe Walker introduced himself to college football with a one-handed catch on a go route early in pass catching drills.
- Along with Jim Leonhard, Marcus Randle El, Antonio Freeman and Brian Calhoun, who has to sit out a transfer year this season, worked out as punt returners.
- Chris Pressley, recruited as a possible tailback or fullback, played exclusively at tailback.
- Erasmus James returned to the field for the first time in close to a year and rotated with Jonathan Welsh and Joe Monty as first-team defensive ends. Anttaj Hawthorne and Jason Jefferson took their usual places as first-team defensive tackles.
- Only so much can be shown in the first practice of the season, but James' looked good. He displayed a burst in drills and was more happy than can be put into words when discussing his return to the field. The Badgers' depth along the front four could be truly special this season.
- The second team defensive line consisted of ends Jamal Cooper and Mark Gorman and tackles Kalvin Barrett and Justin Ostrowski. Lyle Maiava also worked in at tackle.
- The first-team linebackers were as advertised: Mark Zalewski at sam, Reggie Cribbs at mike and LaMarr Watkins at will. The bulk of the second-team reps went to Paul Joran (sam), Elliot Goode (47) and Dontez Sanders (14).
- Freshmen Andy Crooks (sam), Mike Newkirk (mike) and Jammar Crane (will) worked out primarily with the third defense but received reps with the second team.
- Levonne Rowan was a starting cornerback Wednesday, along with Scott Starks. Chuckie Cowans and Ben Strickland were the second-team corners. Strickland also took a significant number of reps with the third team, along with freshmen Jameson Davis, Antonio Freeman and Allen Langford. Langford played one series with the second defense.
- Johnny White and Roderick Rogers continue to back up Robert Brooks and Jim Leonhard, respectively. Joe Stellmacher, making a return from injury, began fall camp at No. 3. Stellmacher showed every sign that he was completely healthy.
- Jack Ikegwuonu began his UW career as a free safety and took a lot of reps with the third defense.
- Jonathan Orr had two long touchdown receptions in 9-on-9 drills, including one where he outran the corner and free safety to get to the ball.
- Josh Balts made a nice leaping catch along the sidelines.
Four players who worked out with the team during spring practices were not on the fall camp roster but are expected to be added to the team when classes start and the allowable roster expands. They are safety Brad Lantagne, cornerback Nate Egholm, tight end Matt Brown and linebacker Victor Meckstroth. In addition, freshman walk-on receiver Jeff Treslley will join the team when classes commence.